The Floating Palace: Robyn Hitchcock, KT Tunstall & friends together onstage
Folk music is the one genre of music that’s bludgeoned by preconceptions at every turn.
In the UK, more than anywhere it seems, the fiddle-wielding yelps are so detached from what is considered to be cool that it almost crosses the line of embarrassment.
But there are saviours of the scene. The Floating Palace, curated by Robyn Hitchcock at the Barbican Hall, was like an insight into an after-hours jam-session. His hand picked band featured Folk veterans such as Martin and Eliza Carthy, country eccentric Howe Gelb, and also included velvety-voiced singer Krystle Warren and KT Tunstall. It was an assortment of people you’d never expect to see working together, but their diverse talent gelled into an evening of laid-back fun loving Folk.
Playing as a six-piece, they worked their way through songs by each band member, starting with Hitchcock’s Ole! Tarantula. These numbers, although goosebump- inducing, were riddled with interminable tuning sessions forcing Hitchcock to keep the mood upbeat by making endless surreal witty banter.
While individuals swapped roles, the remainder of the band enjoyed the music from the sidelines like a smaller second audience. Visibly relaxed as the collaborations started before them. Gelb duetted with Martin Carthy, and quickly won over the audience with his droll and mysterious presence. Tunstall and the Carthys achieved a rich, musical blend with a hearty acapella three-part harmony Shanty Of the Whale. Warren’s unreleased song Emily was a thing of beauty and resonance; however, her solo contributions failed to fit the informal spirit of the venture.
The evening showcased the barren grace of acoustic instruments teamed with soulful voices. It illustrated the authority of Folk’s virtue. The rapport shared by the musicians paired with the casual setup of the show made the audience proud to be privy of these unlikely sights.
The closing communal covers of The Jackson 5’s I Want You Back and Hitchcock’s Uncorrected Personality Traits were a novelty end to a brilliant evening.
Photos: Damian De La Ferra